Sunday, May 10, 2015

Changing a Battery

You Need the Right Word

     Not long after my husband shuffled off this mortal coil for a happier place, I decided to have an alarm system installed in my house. I live just off a major artery in our neck of the woods and commercial development has been exploding nearby. It seemed a prudent thing to do.
     The initial installation took at least twice as long as it should have because the installer had only been with the company a short time. I don’t know this for a fact, but I have wondered if my house was his first solo installation. He left at the end of over eight hours with the sensors he had installed not sounding a signal when tripped and my phone line no longer able to access the Internet. This couldn’t be right.
     My older son contacted the company the next day and advised them this had to be corrected. Steve can be very forceful and the correction took place quickly, and all was well for many years. In fact, the system was so effective that, some five years later, between my efforts (an immediate 911 call) and those of the local police (incredibly fast response time), the burglar who broke into my house and tripped the alarm was captured. Before he got out of my circle. High fives all around!
     After that attempt I added three more sensors, and a few months later when I discontinued my phone land line, a wireless unit connecting my house to the monitoring system of the company was installed.
     That was interesting. After two false alarms within weeks of each other, a very nice technician showed up and checked the wireless unit, since that was what had caused them. He made an adjustment which avoided any additional false alarms. Good thing; I read last week about a local man who’d been arrested because of seven false alarms in twelve months.
     All had been well for the past two years until very recently, when I received a message from the pleasant male voice on my control panel. “Sensor Five, Living Room Motion Detector, low battery.” Okay, folks, no problem. I phoned the company and asked for a technician to take care of this.
     “We can send a technician, ma’am, but there will be a service charge of $130. The policy is now that our technicians’ time is valuable and our customers are capable of changing batteries. We have videos on our website that will show you how to do it.”
     “But I’ve had technicians take care of this kind of thing in the past. When did your policy change? This sensor is very close to the ceiling. I’ll have to use a ladder to reach it and I am a very short senior citizen. Shorter than the average ten-year-old. I avoid ladders whenever possible.”
     I didn’t say “senior citizen,” though. I gave her my exact age. I never do that.
     “You can contact the business office and ask them to waive the charge. The policy changed about two years ago. We sent out a letter,” she finished, a little lamely.
     “I don’t remember any such letter,” I said, a little shortly.
     “We sent it,” she insisted.
     So I went to my computer and to the personal page I had set up on the company’s website. I don’t like to climb ladders but I am fairly computer-savvy. The company monitors its customers pretty thoroughly, and my system page showed the low battery.  I looked further in the site. Sure enough, there was a video. A lovely young woman was shown removing the unit from its bracket and then replacing it, just like that, including a head toss after she replaced the unit and walked away. Obviously she was not on a ladder. I looked up the battery that was indicated. It did concern me a little that the actual removal and replacement of the battery hadn’t been included in the video. Another phone call.
     “I’m just checking on this battery to be sure I buy the right one.”
     “Yes, that should be right. Or it might be two double A batteries. We have no way of knowing which ones you will need until you open the unit.”
     “I’m still not thrilled about climbing this ladder. I’m sure I’m not the only senior citizen customer you have, and some might not even be able to get a ladder from their garage to the second floor. Let alone climb a ladder.”
     “We can send a technician for $130 minimum. Charges could go as high as $300.”
     “To change a battery? No, I’m still fairly agile. I will try to do this.”
     Next step: find the battery. One of the sources is listed as Walgreen’s, a store which is nearby that I visit often. They had a lot of batteries, but not this one. Radio Shack. I drive up the hill to the shopping center and just as I pull up to the Radio Shack, I remember it closed recently. No problem. Down the hill to the Mall, walk inside, go right to the Radio Shack store. Also closed. I finally find the battery on a friend’s suggestion in a local camera store, $8.00 plus tax.
     Back home, and back on line to read instructions about how to open the motion sensor. I am advised I may need a flat head screwdriver. Armed with three of them and the two different kinds of batteries, I go to the very top step of the ladder and am able to remove the motion sensor from its bracket and get back down to ground level without incident. Success!
     Now to open the thing. “Depress the two tabs at the top and the one at the bottom at the same time, then grasp the sides and slide the unit out.” Right. I have small hands to go along with the five feet tall thing. There is absolutely no way I can depress three tabs, two at the top of a two- to three-inch battery case, with one hand; I have to use two hands. Unfortunately, I don’t have a third hand. I struggle with this, and succeed in breaking two fingernails.
     Another phone call, and now I am getting frustrated. “I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to do this. I am a senior citizen. I’ve already risked my life climbing to the very top of a ladder and now I need three hands. Or hands like Rachmaninoff. And I’ve broken two nails.”
     Silence on the other end of the line. She probably never heard of Rachmaninoff. Now I get a little snarky.
     “Rachmaninoff. Very famous Russian pianist and composer who could span at least a twelfth on the piano keyboard.”
     “Can you hold, please, Mrs. Jordan? I need to speak with someone.”
     While she is gone I begin to try prying the thing apart with one of the screwdrivers. Voilá, it works! But guess what I find. Nary a battery in sight. Instead, I’ve reached the darned thing’s motherboard.
     When she comes back I share this information with her. “The batteries are behind the board,” she says helpfully. No kidding.
     “How do I get back there? And what happens if I destroy this computer board?”
     “Can you please hold again, Mrs. Jordan?”
     While she’s gone I take stock: I had to take every item out of a bookshelf in order to move it out of the way, so my living room is covered with books. I climbed to the very top of a stepladder, and am now sitting on my sofa staring glumly at this motion sensor which is laughing at me.
     “Mrs. Jordan, we’re going to send a technician out to help you.”
     “I can’t afford a $130 technician fee to change a battery.”
     “No charge. Just $25 for the service call.” This is part of my contract with the company. “Are you going to be home between twelve and five?”
     “You bet.”
     “The technician will call before he comes.”
     “I’ll be here.”
     The technician is a great guy who has helped me in the past. He fixed the false alarm problem for me, among other things, back in the good old days when a phone call to the company resulted in a helpful technician arriving at my door rather than a major trauma. He told me I had done good and almost had reached the mother lode … er, the battery. Except it was two double A batteries. I have enough double A batteries to last the rest of my life. He changes the batteries, replaces the motion sensor, and commiserates over my broken nails.
     “I’ll get you a check,” I said.
     “No charge.”
     “$25.00 fee for the service call.”
     “No, that fee was also waived. Can I put this furniture back in place for you?”
       I tell this story to a friend. “You had them with ‘Rachmaninoff’,” she says.